The Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program

The Payne Fellowship successfully streamlined operations using RQ Fellowships, addressing administrative challenges and improving communication and processes through features like RQ SmartTracker™, Custom Widgets, Email Scheduler, and the Alumni Directory.

161%

Increase in Total Applications (Draft & Final)

58%

Increase in Final Applications

390%

Increase in visits to the Payne Fellowship Page due to RQ Marketing Services

Introduction

Industry: STEM

Location: United States

The USAID Donald M. Payne Fellowship aims to attract individuals passionate about addressing global challenges. This program offers a unique pathway to a career in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Foreign Service, focusing on issues like injustice, climate change, health, conflict, and poverty.

The Payne Fellowship Program awards up to 30 fellowships valued at up to $52,000 annually for a two-year program.

Objective

The primary goals were to increase applicant numbers, simplify form submissions and post- review processes, and alleviate the manual workload of program administrators.

Challenges

The fellowship program faces administrative challenges stemming from manual application management, complex onboarding processes, lack of centralized resources, and low completion rates. Additionally, alumni engagement suffers due to the absence of a structured connection system, hindering network growth and collaboration opportunities.

Administrative Challenge

Limited administrators handling a high volume of fellowship program applications led to difficulties in manually managing submissions, assigning reviewers, and coordinating communication through extensive emails.

Follow-up and Onboarding Complexity

After the application review, coordinating interviews and managing fellowship onboarding proved challenging. The process involved extensive communication for scheduling, and the intricate requirements, including professional headshots, pre-clearance details, and document uploads, heightened the risk of data misplacement, adding to administrative complexities.

Centralized Resource Challenge

The lack of a centralized resource hub for applicants created difficulties in accessing vital information, guidelines, and resources. 

Low Completion Rates

Despite a moderate influx of applicants, concerns arose due to low completion rates, signalling potential issues with the application process, accessibility, and applicants meeting deadlines.

Alumni Engagement Challenge

Post-program completion, the absence of a structured alumni connection system limited visibility. Hindering the establishment of a robust alumni network impacting mentorship, collaboration, and showcasing of success stories.

Solution

RQ Fellowships introduced a centralized platform, streamlining application processes, review, and post-selection support, addressing manual challenges and fostering efficient management across all fellowship stages.

Centralized Hub for Applications and Review

RQ Fellowships introduced a centralized platform, streamlining application processes, review, and post-selection support, addressing manual challenges and fostering efficient management across all fellowship stages.

Post-Review Processes with RQ SmartTracker

RQ SmartTracker™ was implemented, streamlining post-review procedures for administrators. Selected Fellows could submit documents, choose interview dates, update information, complete clearance forms, and more. Automated emails ensured timely oversight and award acceptance, eliminating manual tracking.

Customized Widgets

 Custom portal widgets offered easy access to webinars, while the applicant and reviewer dashboard contained all necessary documents, Messaging within the system enabled direct communication with administrators, enhancing overall efficiency.

Outreach with Social Media, Online Advertising and Email Marketing

Dedicated social media accounts were set up on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter with curated content calendars to increase program awareness and search presence.

Targeted digital ads promoted the Call for Applications and Backstop week. Audiences were then retargeted through ads on Facebook and LinkedIn to  engage and re-engage potential applicants.

Email campaigns were used to disseminate program information to targeted audiences.

Alumni Directory

An Alumni Directory was implemented as part of the Payne Fellowship system to effortlessly track fellows, offering a streamlined and simple way for them to update contact information, share career milestones, publications, and foster collaboration with fellow alumni.

Email Scheduler

Pre-scheduled email reminders were sent to draft applicants. Acceptance emails were sent to finalists, improving tracking, communication and deadline adherence.

Results

Increased Number of Applications

Shifting to the RQ Fellowship platform allowed for a branded portal home page with information to equip applicants to become successful. The application form was simplified and with simple and intuitive online forms, resulting in a 161% increase in Total Applications with a 58% increase in the final applications submitted.

Increase in Program Awareness

Exponentially increased program outreach and awareness through social media, and digital ads resulted in a 390% increase in visitors, engagement from potential applicants, and support from fellowship alumni.

Improved Post-Program Efficiencies

Using RQ SmartTracker™ for Fellowship acceptance and post-selection documentation requirements reduced response time and manual follow-ups.

Increased Engagement

Utilizing the RQ Alumni Directory facilitated ongoing engagement of Alumni.

Improved Conversion Rate

Emails were set up and pre-scheduled to send deadline reminders to draft applicants, resulting in 100+ users completing their applications.

RQ Features Used

Customized Home Page

Custom Form with Logic

RQ Digital Marketing

RQ Alumni Directory

Email Scheduler

Follow-up Tracking

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